In just over a week since it went public, an online petition demanding that airlines pay flight attendants for boarding has gathered more than 100,000 signatures.
Many American airlines pay flight attendants only when the plane’s door closes and the jet pulls away from the gate, effectively indicating that pre-departure services are provided for free.
The restrictions may fluctuate somewhat from one airline to the next, but the changemaker remains the same.
The org petition explains their airline’s procedure: “At the moment, flight attendants are not paid for boarding. They are paid a ‘hourly rate,’ which is less than the minimum wage.”
“Until the door is closed and the brakes are lifted flight attendants are paid on average $2.00/hour. Even though they are required by their company and the FAA to be there and perform crucial job-related safety and customer service duties.”
According to flight attendants, the amount of time spent performing pre-departure services has significantly increased over the last decade. A domestic flight used to take 30 minutes to board, but that time has recently increased to at least 40 minutes. One of the busiest and most stressful phases of a flight is boarding.
As more airlines reinstate pre-departure services that were halted during the pandemic, the campaign has gained additional traction.
American Airlines will restart the pre-departure beverage service on February 16, however, some flight attendants plan to “flout” the airline’s restrictions.
Of course, flight attendants aren’t merely irritated by providing pre-departure beverage offerings. Some flight attendants have been posting their bizarre pre-departure anecdotes, claiming that they are entitled to extra money when boarding.
“One time I had a baby have a seizure during boarding,” one flight attendant said. “The mother stood up and tried to make her way to the lead flight attendant but people were blocking her and not letting her through.”
“We had to physically push people into seats to allow the mother to pass through. We went into full medical crisis mode. After this crazy dump of cortisol and fear, we had to continue boarding like nothing had happened.
“We were completely spent before we even started making a cent”.
Some of the petition signers said they had contemplated becoming a flight attendant but were turned off when they learned about the “crockery” of not being paid for boarding. Others, on the other hand, were not so sympathetic.
“Did they take the job knowing what the pay would be?” one person wrote. “If they don’t like it they can find a job somewhere else.”
Despite the petition’s popularity, flight attendants shouldn’t expect any changes in the near future.
The vast majority of flight attendants are represented by unions that have negotiated contracts that do not compensate them for boarding, and these contracts cannot be simply altered.
In actuality, these contracts are a delicate balancing act in which it may still be preferable to go underpaid while boarding in exchange for improved working circumstances elsewhere.